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When I am Copyeditor General ...: We will not login, lookup or checkout


We will not login, lookup or checkout

Lest you suspect I'm the kind of gal who insists language be frozen Walt Disney-style, fixed and unchanging, allow me to set the record straight. Language is fascinating because it changes; it's the constant evolution, the regional variations, the historical transitions, that make it so much fun.

In the last couple of decades, technological progress has been highly instrumental in changing the way we speak. Think how recently email, podcast and blog entered the vocabulary; consider the way apple, windows and mouse now have completely different meanings. (For that matter, try to remember the last time you listened to a cassette on your Walkman.)

The web is a particularly rich field for new words to germinate, as online tools revolutionize everything from buying groceries to finding a life partner. The problem, however, is that there are so many sites, and so little standardization, that mutant weed-words are starting to take root.

The ones I notice most often (read: the ones that bug me the most) are unnatural mashups of verb and preposition: login, checkout, signup. As adjectives, they're fine; I have no problem with providing my login name or following the signup process.

But as verbs, they constitute language abuse. This isn't evolution; it's laziness.

Consider the following:

The Golf Channel's logout button

Both of the above are fabulous(ly horrible) examples of the basic lack of understanding at play, using the verb+preposition in the right way in one place (Member Login, "Logout" button) and then, apparently, handing the reins over to a bunch of monkeys to finish up.

Then there are sites on which perfectly fine, commonly used words are tied together in what I can only assume is an attempt to cause me personal pain:

Seriously, when was the last time you had to lookup a word? Huh? Ever? And why didn't they just go all-out and label the button "Lookupit!"

This next one makes me sad because I believe the grapes should be freed. But still, the big purple button suggests either that someone considers both fedup and signup to be perfectly legitimate, or that one is correct and the other has been modified for fun.

It's not the modification that bugs me, you understand; it's the fact that both possibilities suggest a disappointing lack of professional writing ability.

Copyeditor General's ruling: As a lookout for lapses in language, I look out for this kind of thing all the time. And I try to follow up with problematic grammar, though my followup might not be immediate. I just hope there's an eventual breakthrough in web language standardization, which will allow us to break through to more elegant online communication.

(And if you know of examples of verb+preposition verbs that will completely disprove my argument and will make me look like a buffoon, please feel free to set me straight.)


Laura Matthews said...

I basically do "log-in" when it's a noun, i.e., your log-in, but do "log in" when it's a verb. I think there's a place in the world for hyphenation.

And another thing, Missy, I do, however, still capitalize Web.

Anonymous said...

i don't think it matters much what people do one their own web sites as long as people can understand what it means. you know it means log-in so whayt's the difference!

LimeyG said...

Laura, I think you're right about hyphenation; historically, it's not uncommon for words to have been hyphenated earlier in their existence (to-morrow, week-end, base-ball), with the hyphen disappearing over time. It's the verby use that gets me, though!

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